Criminal penalties for hacking vary depending on the circumstances. Hacking takes place via the Internet in most cases, so you should know that you've violated a federal crime if you hacked into a computer or device. There are many federal statutes that address computer crimes that could be used against you.
Where can you find information on how hacking crimes are penalized?
Most of the time, the hacking statutes used are located in 18 U.S. Code Section 1030. This includes information on computer fraud crimes and other activities that are prohibited by law. If you violate one of the crimes listed in this section, you could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years in some cases and could face extreme fines. Fines tend to be determined based on the amount of money you stole or the damage caused by the hack itself. If you have hacked more than once or have multiple convictions come through at the same time, you could face double the time in prison based on federal law.
How long can potential prison sentences last?
On top of federal laws, the states also have their own computer crime laws that aim to combat hacking and other criminal actions. For example, if you sell someone's credit card information, you can face up to 334 years in prison for the crime. That's more than three life sentences for a single action. Although that's extreme, understanding the importance of a strong defense is vital to your case. You need to defend yourself from the first moment you realize you'll be prosecuted.
Source: FindLaw, "What Are the Criminal Penalties for Hacking?," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed March 15, 2017